FROM DESIGN-FOCUSED RESTO BARS IN COUNTRYSIDE HOTELS TO ROOFTOP TAVERNS IN FAR-FLUNG BEACHES, HERE ARE THE BEST BARS TO GRAB A DRINK ON YOUR NEXT HOLIDAY TO SRI LANKA
Beyond its natural landscapes, sprawling beaches, and ancient sites, Sri Lanka is becoming known as a top-tier, cocktail-enthusiast destination thanks to the efforts of a new generation of homegrown mixologists championing native ingredients. With world-class bars and restaurants cropping up in every corner, the island’s bartenders are increasingly using locally made spirits like coconut arrack, and seasonal produce such as palm treacle, wood apple, and indigenous tangerines. From elegant, design-focused resto bars housed in luxe countryside hotels and restored heritage venues, to rooftop taverns in the capital and far-flung beachside hangouts, here are the best bars to grab a drink on your next holiday to Sri Lanka.
Overlooking the colourful fishing boats and crashing waves of the bay in Weligama—the south coast’s charming surf hotspot— is Locale, a contemporary gastro bar. Taking inspiration from the tropics, Locale comprises an elegant open-air lounge with marble-top tables, industrial dining chairs, and a monochrome photo wall. The cocktail menu pays homage to the island’s rich culinary culture with drinks made of ingredients such as native sweet oranges, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The restaurant’s culinary concept changes every year; a Pan-Asian menu is on for this season, with Singaporean black pepper mud crabs, Sichuan pepper spiced charred leeks, and pad thai on offer.
Tip: The bar hosts one for one happy hour sessions from 5-7pm every day
Address: Weligama By Pass Rd, Weligama
Contact: +94 76 278 8962 | @locale.lk
Ropewalk, Galle Fort
Inspired by the flapper era of the 1920s, Ropewalk is the latest addition to the stellar lineup of impressive bars along the south coast. Located inside the 300-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Galle Fort, this speakeasy bar with local and colonial Dutch-influenced design is part of the historic Galle Fort Hotel and the country’s eminent arrack-speciality bar. Taking its name from the process of traditional arrack making—where toddy tappers ply across coconut trees traversing a coir rope stretched between them—Ropewalk’s menu infuses regional flavours like tamarind and palm treacle. Their signatures include Leyn Baan, named after one of Fort’s streets, made with coconut arrack aged in halmilla (a tropical timber) barrels, coriander, and curry leaves. Dinner here is a lavish affair with baked fish wrapped in banana leaf and coconut-based fried pork chops.
Tip: Try the bar’s concept dining experience, ‘Feasts of Ceylon’, a menu inspired by Sri Lanka’s diverse ethnic communities
Address: 30 Church St, Galle 80000
Contact: +94 912 232 870 | @ropewalksl
Smoke & Bitters, Hiriketiya
Coming in at number 40 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars franchise in 2023, this cocktail bar occupies a breezy spot at a beachside coconut grove in Hiriketiya in the far south, roughly three hours from Colombo. Native spirits and ingredients are at the forefront of the bar headed by Don Ranasinghe and Sameera Gayan, with island-inspired drinks like their signature Silvertip White Negroni made with Colombo gin, rare Ceylon silvertip tea infused in vermouth bianco, native olive bitters, and a homemade cardamom tincture. With regional bar takeovers, terracotta-roofed dining spaces paired with hand-drawn batik art tables, and a smokehouse menu serving melt-in-your-mouth ribs, Smoke & Bitters makes for the perfect destination dining spot.
Tip: Pair their cocktails with fire-grilled, jumbo-sized lagoon prawns, or order the vegan claypot braised, smoked jackfruit
Address: Pehebiya, Pehebiya Rd Dickwella south
Contact: +94 76 624 5520 | @smoke.bitters
Long a favourite among the young crowd in Colombo with weekend music nights, ColomBar draws crowds to Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel by the city’s Beira Lake. Mixologist Dhanushka Dias has crafted unique arrack-centred combinations inspired by Sri Lanka’s traditions, culture, and food: the signature drink is a blend of arrack, cinnamon and tea, and served in village-style kerosene lamp-shaped glasses. The bar also specializes in cocktails made with palmyrah palm arrack from Jaffna and the northern peninsula, alongside household bites like black pork curry served with boiled cassava and grated coconut.
Tip: Order Dodola, a cocktail inspired by the dark, gooey Sri Lankan sweet dodol, made of rice flour, coconut milk, and palm jaggery
Address: 117 Colombo – Batticaloa Hwy, Colombo 01000
Contact: +94 112 491 948 | @colombarsl
Virticle by Jetwing, Colombo
Virticle by Jetwing is part of an increasing number of rooftop lounges popping up across the capital, but this 30th-floor open-air bar with upscale interiors and a homegrown menu is quite special: a drink here is possibly the best way to catch the view of the stunning Colombo skyline and the Indian Ocean at sundown. If you are lucky, you’ll also get to enjoy a live music session or cricket match on the big screen. On the menu are native island brews like Rockland’s Ceylon Arrack and locally produced white rum, which pairs seamlessly well with the restaurant’s elevated dining list featuring street food like kottu made with tofu and cashew curry.
Tip: Try their homegrown dishes, like the finger millet pappardelle with char-grilled prawns and coconut garlic cream
Address: Access Towers, 278 Union Pl, Colombo 01000
Contact: +94 70 735 5355 | @virticle.by.jetwing
The Surf Bar at Cape Weligama, Weligama
Weligama is never shy of chic hangout spots—and The Surf Bar at the Relais and Chateaux Resort Cape Weligama is not to be missed. Perched on a cliff top overlooking the Indian Ocean with open-air seating and the welcoming sea breeze, the bar’s tea-infused cocktail list riffs on island flavours. This means you can sip on Earl Grey gin at sundown or linger over after-dinner nightcaps like the Certain Dark Things— vanilla-infused arrack blended with chocolate, coffee liquor, and chilled espresso. The bar conducts mixologist sessions on request, where you’ll get to make your own cocktails.
Tip: Book a mixologist session to make your own Sri Lankan-inspired cocktails
Address: Cape Weligama, Abimanagama Rd, Weligama
Contact: +94 412 253 000 | @capeweligama
Since Botanik opened in 2017, it has created a buzz in the city with their creative cocktail craftsmanship. This 8th-floor bar housed in the Fairway Colombo hotel is located in the Dutch Hospital Complex dining precinct, which is home to celebrated restaurants like the Ministry of Crab. Botanik hosts DJ sessions with custom mixtapes, vintage parties, and midweek all-night happy hours. Take a seat at the rooftop bar counter elevated with Moorish-style blue and white tiles, where the magic happens, and sip on Ginger Biscuit—this muddled ginger, arrack, and citrus blend is part of their new menu inspired by classic Sri Lankan soft drinks.
Tip: The bar hosts all night happy hours every Wednesday
Address: 7 Hospital St, Colombo 00100
Contact: +94 76 644 5888 | @botanikbistrobar
Monsoon Colombo, Colombo
A chain of old warehouses resorted as an entertainment lane, Park Street is Colombo’s buzziest gastronomy hub with vintage bars and upscale, design-led dining venues. Monsoon captures its essence perfectly with expansive interiors decked with mixed marble tables, rattan chairs, and vertical plants. While Monsoon is widely known for their food—thanks to their refined take on regional Southeast Asian street food like Char Kway Teow and Thai seafood brunches—the in-house bar’s cocktail menu leans on a curated list of locally made spirits. Think of Tom Yum Siam, a red chilli and vodka blend, or order yourself a Kochi Gin made with a Sri Lankan chilli pepper blend.
Tip: Perfect for those after dinner drinks in the city with Monsoon’s late night happy hours from 11pm-2am
Address: 50 Park St, Colombo 00200
Contact: +94 76 306 7882 | @monsooncolombo
Charlie’s, Galle Fort
Adding to a new crop of homegrown bars spotlighting local ingredients across Sri Lanka is Charlie’s, which is part of the Galle Fort’s newest art deco hotel Charleston. With sun-dappled modern chic interiors and rampart views from the terrace, this resto bar uses tinctures and essences, all homemade using local produce. One of the highlights is Banana Thingamajig, a whimsical rum blend that uses native sugar and sour banana reductions filtered in coconut milk for 72 hours. The drinks pair perfectly with the restaurant’s ethos to spotlight the island’s rich traditions—try their line-caught seafood paired with river crabs.
Tip: Order Wadamala Collins, a lime-infused vodka cocktail made with a garden-foraged hibiscus and curry leaf tincture
Address: 78 Lighthouse St, Galle 80000
Contact: +94 70 475 1441 | @charliesbargallefort
Uncle’s Colombo, Colombo
Inspired by the slow, laidback life of the island, Uncle’s, located at Park Street, is a crowd puller with their retro décor, quirky wall art, jazz sessions and, of course, the drinks. The popular bar has created a menu that constantly experiments with smokey, bitter and sweet-sour flavours—order their Dudley Please!, a combination of coconut arrack, spiced pineapple, and dark chocolate sourced from the gourmet Sri Lankan chocolatier Gerald Mendis. Don’t also skip their new additions—the local arrack and Lion Beer pairings get a refined twist here with wild jungle honey, lemon, and edible decorative flowers.
Tip: Pair your shots with the bar’s local-inspired bites such as the Cheese Toast, wood oven local bread with smoked mozzarella, aged cheddar and fermented chilli
Address: 48c Park St, Colombo 00200
Contact: +94 114 294 984 | @uncles_colombo
KAIYO Sushi Bar, Weligama
This modern sushi bar in Weligama is quite unlike any other, with a carefully curated menu paying homage to Japanese traditions, and fresh produce from countryside farms and the Indian Ocean. Here, head mixologist Alexandra Kharitonkina experiments with traditional Japanese liqueurs and spirits to create unique concoctions. The seasonal menu includes a tropical take on the classic Japanese Highball, bringing out the enhanced flavour profile of whiskey with bright, refreshing notes of kaffir lime, and Mexican tonka beans. Come for drinks, and stay over for smoked tuna and watermelon salsa sushi, gunkan, and seafood tempura rolls.
Tip: Try their fusion drinks, like the refreshing Japanese sencha, star fruit and kaffir lime lemonade
Address: 311 Weligama By Pass Rd, Weligama 81700
Contact: +94 76 983 8973 | @kaiyo.sushi.bar
Lighthouse Ahangama, Ahangama
South Sri Lanka’s darling surf village, Ahangama is known for its bohemian surf cafés, seaside restaurants, and bijou hotels. When in town, head over to Lighthouse Ahangama, a boutique stay that sits right by the beach and two surf spots; the hotel’s rooftop bar is ideal for catching a stunning sunset with a Cafe Arrack Shot, a blend of premium roasted small batch coffee and coconut arrack. Other creative drinks include house-spiced arrack paired with grilled pineapple juice and kithul (fishtail palm) treacle. There’s also a garden café with plenty of lounging spaces to relax with sundowners and barbecues.
Tip: Don’t miss the sunset from their rooftop bar
Address: Goviyapana, Ahangama
Contact: +94 76 552 1242 | @lighthouse_ahangama
Malabar Hill, Weligama
Located on a hilltop in the lush tropical jungle surrounded by paddy fields, Malabar Hill is mostly known for its light contemporary design with Moorish influences, and discrete villas with plunge pools. But this resort’s restaurant and bar is a destination in itself, for its Rajasthani palace-like architecture and antique furniture that boasts upscale elegance. The menu contains classic cocktails as well as plenty of wine and gin, which pair perfectly with the restaurant’s crispy skin barramundi and crab curry. Their terrace, with cosy lounging spaces, is also ideal for sundowners with good company.
Tip: Perfect for those lavish, Instagram-worthy brunches with sophisticated interiors and unparalleled views
Address: Palalla – Borala Rd, Weligama
Contact: +94 76 934 5747 | @malabarhillsrilanka
TRAX Ahangama, Ahangama
TRAX gets its name from its location by the busy railway tracks in Ahangama. A café by day, nestled in their tropical garden, this green oasis turns into Ahangama’s most happening spot as dusk falls in. The nighttime low-lit cocktail bar features DJ sessions and disco evenings, with artists from across the world spinning on the club’s audiophile sound system—the only one of its kind in Sri Lanka. Drinks are a high-end affair championing seasonal island ingredients with coconut milk and banana-infused rum cocktails. Their Friday night parties are a town favourite.
Tip: Don’t miss the bar’s weekend night events
Address: Matara Road Welhengoda Junction, Ahangama
Hotel De Uncle’s, Ahangama
Colombo’s retro bar also finds a place down south with their second outlet Hotel De Uncle’s in the beach town Ahangama. Quite the vibrant space, with cane stools painted in hot pink and a vivid mix of pastels all around, the bar offers splendid sunset views from the deck. Their menu is an ode to the island living with maiyokka (chilli flake-dusted shaved cassava chips) going hand in hand with Aunty Phillis—aged rum paired with Aperol, pineapple, and fresh lime. Focused on minimising waste, the restaurant’s Pilla Roast Chicken—inspired by Colombo’s iconic late-night street food joint Pilawoos—uses a flavour-enhancing sauce made from the bar’s leftover orange rinds.
Tip: Brunch includes iconic Sri Lankan appa or appam (hoppers) paired with grated coconut sambol and curries
Address: No. 58, Matara road, Ahangama
PALM is the kind of place where you laze by the pool nestled in the coconut grove, and ease into a sunkissed evening with curry leaf G&Ts at their bright, airy, open pavilion that seamlessly blends industrial chic design with tropical minimalism. Located about 4 km off the coast in the surrounding paddy fields of Ahangama, PALM is also a design-led boutique hotel with A-frame cabanas, luxe suites, and a CrossFit gym. But even if you are not staying overnight, their restaurant & bar is ideal for a dinner night in the jungle with sharing plates influenced by co-owner Miriam Haniffa’s island roots. We are talking about hot, buttery, seafood that goes down well with a watermelon rum punch, or new additions like arrack and rosehip tea cocktails.
Tip: Go for early dinner and try their new island plates, perfect for sharing
Address: Nakanda, Galkadanduwa, Ahangama
Contact: +94 76 280 3166 | @palmhotelsrilanka
Unawatuna, a beach hamlet 5 km south of Galle Fort, isn’t the most obvious choice for an outstanding Mexican kitchen that doubles as a craft cocktail bar, but Norwegian-Sri Lankan owners Natasha Sand and Danushka Udayanga made it happen. Inspired by the island’s abundant fresh produce, they thought such ingredients would pair well with traditional Mexican cooking, and opened Hideout in 2018 with handmade tacos on offer each morning and evening. Go for Taco Tuesdays where you can mix and match as many as tacos you like for a sweet deal, and stay for their famous pineapple margaritas served with housemade syrups. Fridays see live music and open mic nights.
Tip: Try Hideout’s slow-cooked jackfruit and pulled pork tacos with chili passion fruit margaritas
Address: Yaddehimulla Rd, Unawatuna 80000
Contact: +94 77 113 7576 | @thehidehoutunawatuna
The Social Unawatuna, Unawatuna
Previously a sunset bar by the beach, The Social reopened in December for the first time after the pandemic at a new location in Unawatuna. It’s bigger and better with the bar’s new ethos to highlight local island ingredients like starfruit, lemongrass, and wood apple in their impressive cocktail list. The chic boho bar designed by the local interior designer Avisha Se Seram features soft, muted sandy tones with cane furnishings and wicker lights, effortlessly blending into the tropical atmosphere. The bar’s live music sessions keep the drinks flowing, perfect for those after-dinner nightcaps.
Tip: Go for late night drinks, like the island-inspired South Side made with wood apple, coconut cream syrup, fresh lime and old arrack
Address: 126 Yaddehimulla Rd, Unawatuna 80600
Contact: +94 77 614 4920 | @thesocialunawatuna
Zephyr Ceylon, Kamburugamuwa
By the beautiful powder-soft beach in Kamburugamuwa, the next-door neighbour of the popular tourist hotspot Mirissa, is Zephyr Ceylon, a resto bar serving delectable seafood fare and island-inspired cocktails. Make your way through the charming entrance dimly lit by the rattan pendant lights, and take a seat by the sea for a candlelight dinner. Run by brothers Mahen and Chethaka Wijesekara, Zephyr’s second branch is housed inside Kurumba Bay, a destination beach lounge with bars, restaurants and boutiques in Weligama. Their bar menu remains the same, with mixologist-developed cocktails using housemade liqueurs and bitters on offer.
Tip: Sundays see the bar’s famous Zephyr Sessions with local artists and live music bands
Address: 9 Ekanayaka Watta, Kamburugamuwa 81750
Contact: +94 77 772 3223 | @zephyr_ceylon
The Doctor’s House, Matara
Inside a 200-year-old restored Dutch hospital in the beach village Madiha, roughly a 2.30-hour drive from Colombo, is The Doctor’s House, a travellers’ hostel, restaurant, bar, and boutique, all in one place. Perhaps the south coast’s most energetic venue, Doctor’s House hosts jewellery and art markets, DJ sessions, sunset jazz and live band performances every week during the peak season while you sip on some classic cocktails (like their Old Fashioned) or chilled local beer. Their rooftop bar, The Upstairs, has a tapas menu to pair with a selection of great cocktails and wine.
Tip: There’s always something brewing here, so check their Instagram for new events like the seasonal Twilight Markets
Address: 87 Beach Rd, Matara 81000
Contact: +94 76 642 2734 | @the_doctors_house